‘Shocking’ surge in freelancers reporting mental health problems highlights the ‘hidden cost of the pandemic’
The number of freelancers experiencing mental health issues has risen by more than 200 per cent – a spike from six per cent to 20 per cent, according to new research by IPSE.
More than half of all freelancers (52%) also said that during the pandemic their mental health had deteriorated.
Of this group, almost three-quarters (71%) said this had manifested in the form of anxiety or depression. And more than two-thirds (69%) added that they had an increase in negative thoughts.
Poor mental health affecting freelancers’ work
A further 77 per cent said they had lower energy levels and 71 per cent said they had difficulty sleeping.
According to the study, this means at least one in seven freelancers are experiencing depression, anxiety, sleeping difficulties and or an increase in negative thoughts.
The problem is affecting freelancers’ work too, with 61 per cent saying they struggle to concentrate, 60 per cent less productive and 14 per cent have delayed or cancelled projects because of it.
IPSE’s research cited financial worries and the lack of government support as a key factor in this increasing problem, with three in five (60%) freelancers saying the pandemic had a negative impact on their business.
Financial worries a key factor
The study also found that more limited company directors, who were excluded from the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), reported a decline in mental health compared to sole traders (62 per cent compared to 54 per cent).
Chloé Jepps, Head of Research at IPSE, said: “The hidden cost of the pandemic is the toll it has taken on people’s mental health. And for freelancers, who took a disproportionate hit because of their exposed position in the economy, this toll has been particularly high.
“We all know the lockdowns and the sheer tragedy of the pandemic have been bad for mental health across the board, but a 200 per cent increase in poor mental health is shocking evidence of just how exposed the self-employed community is.
Money and mental health are closely linked
Responding to IPSE’s findings, Jane Tully, Director of External Affairs at the Money Advice Trust – the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said the pandemic has had a “devastating blow to the finances of self-employed people” and it’s no surprise “money and mental health issues are often closely linked.”
She told Contractor Weekly: “IPSE’s findings mirror our own which show the severe toll that financial worries caused by the outbreak have taken.
“More than half of the self-employed people we spoke to at the end of last year said that financial worries caused by Covid-19 were having a negative impact on their mental health, with many regularly losing sleep as a direct result.
Calls for strategy to help sector recover
“Government support has been a vital lifeline for many, but millions remain excluded from support and are facing severe challenges.
“Since the start of the outbreak, we have called for more Government support to help those who have fallen through the gaps, including the introduction of a Self-employment Recovery Strategy. This is vital to support the financial recovery of those still affected and the economic recovery of the sector as a whole.”
IPSE has also put forward recommendations to tackle the issue among freelancers to the government. This includes ensuring there is fair and flexible Covid-19 support for the self-employed as the UK emerges from lockdown, tailored mental health support and promoting co-working spaces with business rates relief.